What do Michelle Obama, Amy Schumer, and Sheryl Sandberg have in common? I mean other than being super successful boss women…the answer might surprise you!
I became kind of obsessed with comparing my journey with other successful women, and the similarities were striking. My guess is if you’re reading this, you probably share the same thing in common with these ladies as I do. The big secret? None of us believe we belong here. Amy Schumer once is quoted as saying, “Why is Hollywood playing this big trick on me? When are they going to realize that I’m disgusting and I have no right to be in the movie?” Former First Lady Michelle Obama says “it doesn’t go away – that feeling that nobody should take me seriously…what do I know?” Oh, I don’t know Michelle, you’ve only been in the most important rooms with the most important people in the entire world but yeah, you belong there. Even the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook Sheryl Sandberg says every time that she was called on in class, she was sure that she was going to embarrass herself. Every time she took a test, she was sure that it had gone badly. Every time she didn’t embarrass herself or even excel (umm..hello executive at Facebook!), she was just certain that she’d fooled everyone once again. These feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt are collectively known as Imposter Syndrome, and it affects somewhere between 75-82% of us. The effects seem to be especially strong for women and minorities. Have you ever felt that sense of self-doubt where you’re certain that they’re going to figure you out and your boss will fire you? Or feeling like your partner will break up with you because you really have just been a fake this whole time?
It turns out that the research shows the best way to get over Imposter Syndrome is to talk about it; to recognize that you’re not alone! We all have these feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness! The ironic thing about Imposter Syndrome is that these thoughts paradoxically plague those that are high achievers the most. So, if you’re really achieving and doing really well in life, you tend to have more self-doubt, lower confidence, lower self-worth, and you’re convinced that everyone around you knows it. A lot of these feelings feed on something known as pluralistic ignorance – the idea that we all have these feelings internally, but nobody wants to share them externally. We doubt ourselves quietly, but believe we’re alone in that doubt, because no one actually wants to share this publicly. It’s why it’s so important that we do begin to express our own self-doubt and our own lack of confidence, even though we are achieving great things. If we want to get through Imposter Syndrome, we have to recognize that we are not alone. It’s really important to find a safe space with friends, family, or even colleagues who may be sharing these same imposter thoughts, so that you recognize we’re all kind of in this together. I don’t know about you, but I’d be happy to be listed as having anything in common with Michelle Obama, Amy Schumer, and Sheryl Sandberg – even if it’s Imposter Syndrome!
When you realize that you’re not alone in your imposter thoughts, it suddenly becomes a little easier to share and deal with them. Together, we can work to support one another to collectively remove the mask that keeps us doubting ourselves and holds us back from living authentically and powerfully.
I hope this helped you start to take back your imposter thoughts and live a more fearless life.